Resolution Statement – 07814-20 Hammans v Telegraph.co.uk

Decision: Resolved - directly with publication

Resolution Statement – 07814-20 Hammans v Telegraph.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Mark Hammans complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Dominic Cummings did breach Coronavirus guidelines, Durham Police say”, published by Telegraph.co.uk on 28 May 2020.

2. The article’s headline reported that the Prime Minister’s Senior Adviser, Mr Cummings, “did breach Coronavirus guidelines” according to “Durham Police”. The article then went on to report that an investigation by Durham Constabulary concluded Mr Cummings “did commit a ‘minor breach’ of the guidelines” when he drove to Barnard Castle on 12 April. The article reported that ““[h]ad a…police officer stopped Mr Cummings…the officer would have spoken to him, and…likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address…Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken””. This was based upon a press statement made by Durham Constabulary on 28 May.

3. The complainant said the article was misleading as it did not provide an accurate summary of the statement made by Durham Constabulary.  He said that Durham Constabulary did not conclusively find that Mr Cummings had committed an offence under the Coronavirus restrictions and, furthermore,  it was not the role of the police to determine objectively whether an individual was guilty of breaking the law but, rather, a matter for the courts.

4. The publication accepted that the investigation by Durham Constabulary did not conclusively find that Dominic Cummings had breached Covid-19 guidelines but said that readers would be aware that a finding of guilt is for the courts. Additionally, it stated that part of the police statement indicated the police had come as close as it could to indicating that, in its view, Mr Cummings had breached the restrictions.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated Outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish a standalone correction. It also offered to share a link to this on Twitter as well as to include the correction as a footnote in the original online article. 

CORRECTION: “Contrary to the wording of the original headline and first paragraph of this article, now amended, Durham Police did not conclusively find that Dominic Cummings had breached Covid-19 guidelines; any finding of guilt would be for a court to decide. Durham Police did however state that had an officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have likely advised him to return to Durham, and no enforcement action would have been taken had Mr Cummings followed this advice. However, this statement again does not conclude any guilt on Mr Cummings part.”

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

 

Date complaint received: 28/5/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 29/9/2020

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